Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies Review
If you’re familiar with the many works of Sid Meier, you’ve got a good idea what you’re in for with Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies. The man’s a gaming legend, after all, as the creator of both the Civilization series and the Pirates! series. True, his creations tend to be more oriented for imaginative gamers who don’t mind spending some time doing mental math, but those diligent fans get a lot of great mileage out of his games, and his newest entry is no different.
A turn-based, tactical RPG fought (primarily) with airplanes, Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies puts you in control of a squadron of naval/army pilots who’re hungry to fight the good fight against the enemy. These pilots are highly customizable; you can rename them, paint and decorate their planes, and grant them new abilities as they level up. Don’t expect to see the kind of obvious abilities you’d find in other games, like fireballs, healing, and the like. Here your characters mostly unlock aerial acrobatics like barrel rolls, side-turns, and u-turns. There are lots of subtle complexities to these sorts of abilities, and most players may not feel motivated to learn the differences between the various turns, skids, swipes, and slorps.
Each battle tends to be between a fairly evenly-matched group of planes, so victory comes from obtaining superior positioning, whether it’s by surrounding your foes more effectively, or using elevation to your advantage. It’s smart stuff, and some of the subtle differences between the various maneuvers may be lost on players, at times, as Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies doesn’t hold your hand and explain things in great detail. As you progress you’ll unlock greater options for your squad of flying soldiers, which, in turn, leads to more epic battles against your increasingly aggressive foes (whose aggression can be adjusted via the in-game options).
Though Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies is a smart gal, she sure is ugly. The graphics border on Playstation 2-era, and the audio is equally minimal. Most of the time all you’re going to hear are basic swoops and machine guns sound — some flavor sound effects, like additional bits of dialogue from the pilots, would have been nice. The controls work well, however. During each plane’s turn you’ll be presented with a series of clearly-indicated icons; double-tapping an icon will move your plane to the corresponding hex. Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy.
If this turn-based strategy title can get its hooks in you, you’ll probably find yourself getting sucked deeper and deeper into its many intricacies. But, thanks to its unappealing aesthetics and focus on subtle game mechanics, getting in isn’t easy.